“The way a crow shook down on me the dust of snow from a hemlock tree, has given my heart a change of mood, and saved some of the day I had rued.”
– Robert Frost
All you have to do to make a former New Englander homesick is blanket the ground with a few inches of snow. So when heavy flakes began to fall a few nights ago, I knew I’d be up earlier the next morning than children on Christmas Day, and I’d remember …
The magic of a snow-covered landscape, God’s equalizer, rendering homes and property indistinguishable from the rich and the not-so-rich;
Jewel-studded hillsides beckoning the morning sun; blue-gray smoke curling upward from row upon row of warm houses; and cloudless, after-the-storm skies blessing the reawakened earth;
Foot-long icicles clinging to the eaves, man-sized snowdrifts lining the roads, and puffy snowsuits silhouetting children to twice their normal size;
Children carrying sleds skis, and skates toward hills and frozen ponds to expend their energy on the elements; and parents pulling little ones on sleds, or helping them transform massive snowballs into forts, sculptures or the perennial snowman.
Of course, I could mention icy roads, frozen pipes, sub-zero temperatures and going to school on Saturday to make up for days lost during the storm. But all memories are selective, and I still believe there are advantages to a good, old-fashioned snowstorm.
From 24 hours to a week each year, it seemed, time stood still. Accustomed to the interruption, we knew how to stay warm, well-fed and entertained. Schools and businesses closed, and families had unscheduled time together.
Books, games and jigsaw puzzles came down from the shelves. Special treats – popcorn, home-canned jams and fruits, marshmallow-topped hot chocolate – supplemented mealtime.
When the storm passed, we’d put on layers of clothing and go outside to shovel our own walks and driveways, and help the neighbors with theirs. Everyone smiled, pooled supplies, and offered assistance for any emergency or need. Then came the snowball fights and the winter sports, and returning home to warm our feet on lowered oven doors before climbing into quilt-covered beds. As Archie and Edith would say, “Those were the days.”
As natural catastrophes go, I’ll take a blizzard over anything else, because everyone needs a slowdown – preferably an unplanned slowdown – once in a while. Hurricanes are sudden and unpredictable. Fires and floods destroy property and take lives. Blizzards can be hazardous, too, but they can also be enjoyable.
Naturally, unlike the storms in my memory, our recent storm won’t make the record books. Traces of the white stuff lingered for a couple days, tightly packed snowmen a bit longer. “Not like that storm we had in ’88,” seasoned residents reported. No, but as a 5-year- old child turning his little snowballs into a miniature snowman was heard to say, “Isn’t this exciting?”